Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post has been collecting data for two years about how many people have been killed in encounters with law enforcement ever since the Michael Brown-Officer Darren Wilson incident that made national headlines. The Post did not mention how the oft-used ‘hands up don’t shoot’ narrative has been debunked, but the recent update admitted that white males, not black males, were the majority of people shot and killed by police officers.

But what is the caveat? The Post’s counted the number of unarmed people being shot and killed, without going into specifics of how difficult it is to determine if someone is armed in a tense confrontation between law enforcement officer and civilian. The piece also neglected to point out how crime statistics aren’t necessarily cut-and-dry regarding gender or race and how police officers hesitate to shoot black suspects:

In the second year of tracking, The Post found:

White males continued to be those most often killed, accounting for 46 percent of this year’s deaths — about the same as in 2015. But when adjusted by population, black males were three times as likely to die as their white counterparts.

The percentage of fatal shootings of unarmed people declined in 2016, from 9 percent in 2015 to 5 percent. Black males, however, continued to represent a disproportionate share of those: 34 percent of the unarmed people killed this year were black males, although they are 6 percent of the population.


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